We interviewed Louise Zammit, Information Officer and Natalie Swinburne, the Trade Marketing Manager at Malta Tourism Authority who revealed all of Malta’s hidden treasures. From its surrounding islands to its famous stews and top diving spots, this award-winning destination will instantly have you captivated.
Holiday like a movie star in its film locations, discover unique UNESCO World Heritage Sites or head here during festival season to witness big-name artists – this interview won’t disappoint.
1. What Makes Malta Unique?
There are a number of factors which make Malta unique, the size of this stunning country enables you to enjoy a variety of activities in one day. In fact, you can visit one of the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the morning, relax at one of its stunning beaches in the afternoon before enjoying a traditional Maltese dish in its many restaurants on the evening. And the stunning harbour views won’t disappoint either.
The size of the Maltese Islands makes this a very attractive destination for families or groups with different interests. The cuisine is a unique blend of Italian and Arabic food. Since the Maltese people thoroughly enjoy their fare, the portions are also very generous. The local wines are excellent and have won several international awards. However, the production is not sufficient to export, so you have to be in Malta to sample these delicious bottles.
You can divide your stay between Malta and Gozo (Malta’s sister island) which is a short 25-minute boat ride away from the mainland. Gozo is the more rural option and offers an unmatched authentic experience. Since we enjoy 300 days of sunshine, it’s the ideal location to plan outdoor weddings or events and rest assured that the weather will be warm or hot depending on the time of year. The locals are also welcoming, friendly and everybody speaks English.
2. When is the Best Time to Visit?
I would say that the best time to visit is either spring or autumn because the weather tends to be very pleasant during both of these periods. Spring opens the season for the village fiesta, a celebration of the villages’ patron saints. The Maltese are devoted to their patron saints and celebrate extravagantly. The streets and churches are beautifully lit up and decorated, band marches and fireworks are some of the activities you can enjoy at the fiesta. If you want to truly mingle with the locals there’s no better experience than this.
Spring weather is also mild enough for those who enjoy outdoor activities whether its horse riding, rock climbing or walks with stunning coastal views.
Autumn is also a great season for diving among other interesting events. The Mediterranean Sea surrounding the islands are particularly clear offering great visibility. The Maltese islands are best known for their historical shipwrecks and have won 2nd Best Diving Destination for four consecutive years as voted by the readers of Diver Magazine.
3. What's the Most Popular Excursion?
The most popular excursion has to be a day trip to Comino, the transparent, crystal water surrounding the island known as the Blue Lagoon makes it a hotspot for anybody visiting. During autumn and winter, Comino is also a popular location for walking and hiking.
4. Are There Any Off-the-Beaten-Track Secret Spots?
There are a number of villages both on Malta and Gozo that are off-the-beaten-track such as Zejtun which has recently won the title of European Destination of Excellence prestigious award. This project promotes sustainable tourism development across the EU.
An annual festival between Sep/Oct takes place in Zejtun celebrating the start of the olive-picking and pressing season, this event honours a revival of a heritage closely associated with this part of Malta since the name Zejtun is derived from Zejt which means oil in Maltese.
Meet the cheese maker Rikardu who has a farm with 200 sheep and goats which he milks by hand daily, and then makes fresh cheese with the milk while it is still warm. Try some delectable traditional dishes at his restaurant in Victoria Gozo.
5. What Are Your 5 Top Tips For Anyone Visiting?
- Make the most of the island’s size and explore the north and south as they’re equally interesting in different ways.
- Take the 25-minute crossing to Malta’s sister island Gozo, both islands offer a completely different experience.
- Take a Segway tour at Dingli cliffs which is the highest point in Malta. The views are breathtaking.
- Take a harbour cruise with a detailed commentary of the history of Valletta and the Three Cities.
- Try Maltese food particularly ftira; Maltese flat bread with tomato puree, tuna olives and capers or pastizzi; a delicious savoury pastry filled with peas or ricotta cheese
6. Tell us a Fun Fact About Malta & Gozo
Gozo is home to the oldest free standing structures in the world. These temples (UNESCO World Heritage Site) were built between 3600 and 3200 BC and they pre-date the Pyramids of Egypt by a thousand years. Gozitans used to believe that these temples were built by giants due to their enormous size hence the name Ggantija which is derived from the word Giant in Maltese.
The Maltese language is a combination of Italian and Arabic, we Maltese have a favourite word, ‘Mela!’, this is definitely the word you’ll hear most throughout your stay. This word has a range of meanings from ‘Of course!’ to ‘Okay!’, ‘Alright!’, ‘Certainly!’, ‘So’, ‘Then’ and ‘Umm’. It is commonly used at the beginning or end of every sentence for effect with a slight varying intonation. This will certainly be one of the words that will be part of your holiday experience.
7. What’s Your Biggest Event?
This really depends on individual interests, there are a variety of events throughout the year, say you’re interested in music then Isle of MTV has to be mentioned. This yearly event takes place just outside the city of Valletta between June and July, (this year it will take place on the 15th July). It attracts a crowd of around 50,000 and it’s completely free of charge. The previous line-up of A-list artists have included Jason Derulo, Jess Glynne, Paloma Faith, Sigala and many more.
There are several other very popular events such as the Rolex Middle Sea Race. This is a great celebration if you’re a sailing enthusiast, the course of the race is between Malta and Sicily and the view from Valletta Grand Harbour as the yachts sail out to sea is truly spectacular.
I recommend that you refer to the events calendar on www.maltauk.com & www.visitmalta.com to view all the great festivals that take place throughout the year.
8. What Are the Biggest Films or TV Shows Located in Malta?
The Maltese islands have played host to many high-profile productions such as World War Z, Gladiator, Game of Thrones and Murder on the Orient Express among many others. Popeye, the movie was filmed in Malta back in 1980 and the original set still stands today and is a very popular tourist attraction especially with families with younger children.
9. Which Local Dishes Would You Recommend Trying?
Food is a big deal in Malta, as mentioned the Maltese are very passionate about their cuisine. The Maltese fare is an interesting blend of Italian and Arabic influences.
There are a variety of restaurants on the Maltese islands for all types of food lovers. For meat lovers, I recommend the traditional rabbit stew or fried rabbit in white wine and garlic. Both equally delicious. Mgarr is a tiny village in the northwest of Malta and is famous with the locals for serving up the best stews.
If you prefer fish then you must sample the lampuka (mahi-mahi fish) this is served either fried or in a pie. Marsaxlokk in the south is best known for its family-owned fish restaurants. For beautiful settings, stunning views and an exquisite menu try one of the many restaurants overlooking the harbour in Valletta or Sliema
10. Do You Have Any Awards or World Records?
- Valletta Sunniest City in Europe
- 2nd Best Dive Destination in the world – Diver Magazine
- 1st LGBT+ Rainbow Index – ILGA-Europe
11. Tell Us More About Gozo & Comino
Gozo means “Joy” in Castilian, when you visit the Island of Gozo you really understand why. This serene island is a haven of tranquillity. The landscape is stunning. From secluded bays, dazzling churches to the oldest free-standing temples in the world, Gozo is rooted in tradition yet still open to a number of activities such as cycling, rock climbing and diving. The underwater world in both Gozo and Comino offer spectacular caves, caverns and shipwrecks for divers to discover. Make sure you include a wine tasting tour at one of the family-run boutique wineries while in Gozo. The wines are delicious!
Comino is the smallest island in the archipelago, measuring just 3.5 km². The knights of Malta used this island as hunting grounds back in the 16th century, today it is better known for the stunning crystal clear lagoon which surround Comino, making it a very popular tourist attraction.